Whether you are a convinced believer or a considering skeptic, the question is the same: “How do I learn about God?”
Historically, people pursue theology (the study of God) through seven disciplines:
1. Scripture. Christians believe that the Bible, or “Scripture,” is the primary source for specific information about God and His plan. Reading the New Testament of the Bible is the best starting place for theological seekers.
2. Songs. The Christian church, since its inception, has used songs as a way to express and share theological truth. Filling your soul with the music of faith will help you make emotional, rather than only academic, connections with God.
3. Schooling. As with any academic pursuit, theology has its experts and teachers, its debates, textbooks, and institutions. If you’ve never studied this topic before, I recommend the book “Basic Christianity” by John Stott. Or, if you are seeking something more in-depth, you might try chewing on “Bible Doctrine” by Wayne Grudem. Most Bible-centered churches offer learning options for seekers of all ages.
4. Symbols. Jesus instituted the use of symbols to help remind us of theological truths (baptism and communion are the two primary examples). Every time we participate in or observe these customs, key spiritual teachings are reinforced in our minds. (One point of interest to me: how much energy churches have used in defending their methods of symbolism, yet how little average Christians know about what these symbols mean).
5. Serving. There is no better way to develop a healthy understanding of theology than to serve people as Jesus did. In this sense, theological study is not book-learning, it is life-learning. The Bible notes this in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
6. Solitude. Learning about God often comes in the quiet moments of personal prayer and study, away from the hassles and distractions of the world. I recommend that people set aside regular time to get out in nature and just talk to God, alone. He can give you insights into His plan, character and nature that most people miss, simply because they don’t take the time to ask or meditate.
7. Sacrifice. Those who have been persecuted for their faith often have a closer and deeper relationship with God; and a far better grasp on theology, than those of us with typically comfortable lives. This doesn’t mean we should seek out difficulties, but rather, we should be willing to stand up for our faith whatever it may cost us. Also, we may voluntarily sacrifice time, energy or resources to help others in need, demonstrating true Christian love without selfish motives.
If you’d like to learn theology, begin with these seven disciplines. Practice them regularly, and you’ll soon learn why the universities of old called theology the “queen of the sciences.”
Do I read the Scripture regularly?
Do I listen to Christian songs?
Am I involved in theological schooling?
Do I observe biblical symbols & customs?
Am I serving other people regularly and intentionally?
Do I make time for spiritual solitude?
Do I make sacrifices for God, or to help others in His name?